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date: 23 March 2018

Abstract and Keywords

The concept of individual free will is difficult to reconcile with a materialist view of the brain. The debate over “free will” involves a series of several questions about the origin of human actions, and their resulting social, legal, and ethical implications. This article sets out the reasons that scientific questions regarding free will have important ethical and social consequences. It then considers the neuroscientific debate over whether a conscious experience of volition does or does not precede the brain's preparation for action. It outlines that conscious volition is a consequence of brain activity, perhaps linked to the capacity to inhibit ongoing actions. A major objection to this view is reviewed, based on social psychological studies of unconscious determinants of behavior, and of attribution theory. Finally, some specific issues for neuroethical debate are suggested.

Keywords: free will, neuroethical, conscious volition, brain activity, ethical implications

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